McDonald’s on Friday announced it will now require customers to wear face coverings in its restaurants, effective August 1, joining Starbucks among the largest quick-service companies to ask the additional step of guests.

Joe Erlinger, president of McDonald’s USA and Mark Salebra, the chain’s National Franchise Leadership Alliance Chair, said in a joint release McDonald’s would take two other measures as well: Adding protective panels to front- and back-of-house, and pausing dining room reopenings in corporate stores for an additional 30 days.

McDonald’s announced July 1 it was hitting the brakes on dine-in reopening for three weeks. It will now extend until at least the end of August. The brand remains open for drive-thru, pickup, and delivery across the system.

By mid-June, roughly 1,000 of McDonald’s 13,800 domestic locations reopened dining rooms with limited seating. It had about 2,200 open in early July.

With Friday’s decision, like before, franchisees who already reopened are not mandated to back-track if local officials don’t require it.

McDonald’s said it will not approve the reopening of any additional dining rooms but the decision remains up to owner/operators. The system is roughly 95 percent franchised. It asked franchisees to consult their operations officer and franchise business partner.

On face masks, McDonald’s cited rising COVID-19 cases. A million new positives have been reported in the last two weeks alone, the company said.

“At the same time, we’re learning more,” Erlinger and Salebra said. “The latest science suggests droplets have the potential to stay in the air for extended periods of time, increasing the risk of virus spread, especially from asymptomatic carriers. As a result, the most recent guidance from the Centers for Disease Control reiterates face coverings are an effective way to prevent the spread of COVID-19.”

Close to 82 percent of McDonald’s are located in states or localities that require face covering for crew and customers already.

The chain said it’s working on solutions to handle potential kickback from guests. “In those situations where a customer declines to wear a face covering, we’ll put in place additional procedures to take care of them in a friendly, expedited way,” McDonald’s said. “Additionally, we will provide training for our restaurant staff to ensure they are prepared to address this new policy in a friendly and positive way. We also will re-share resources for our and our franchisees’ employees who want to revisit de-escalation training.”

McDonald’s developed a series of divider panels and retrofit barrier solutions for restaurants. It said these “conditions-based solutions” are designed to safely allow owner/operators to increase order taking and seating capacity, as well as staffing levels, while continuing to meet social distancing guidelines. “The panels are an additional safety measure and not a replacement for consistent PPE execution or adherence to social distancing guidelines,” Erlinger and Salebra said.

They added it will be up to franchisees to evaluate their restaurants’ individual needs to determine if there are conditions that require the panels to be installed. McDonald’s said “DIY solutions that meet the same quality standards and measurements are also acceptable.” The brand plans to offer additional details on the panels to operators in a field brief next week.

“For 65 years, protecting the safety and comfort of employees and customers has been core to who we are,” the company said. “The moment we’re in today provides another opportunity to set the standard and lead.”

In June, McDonald’s said 95 percent of its restaurants globally were open, serving off-premises business via drive thru, delivery, and/or take-away with a limited menu. Only 100 or so were shuttered domestically due to unique sites, like malls.

The chain’s U.S. same-store sales declined 19.2 percent in April and just 5.1 percent in May. 

Fast Food, Story, McDonald's